DUBAI // Khalil al Jedaili lost his legs during Israel's attack on Gaza in 2009, when he and 10 other family members ran to his grandmother's house for shelter. One of his brothers was killed and Khalil was buried under the rubble of the house.
However, Khalil did not allow this physical challenge to impede his ambitions. The young man is the first Arab double amputee to receive a diving certification and spends time in the coral reefs of the Gulf making underwater discoveries.
His recovery was possible because the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF), a non-profit volunteer organisation, sent Khalil to Dubai for treatment last March.
Rama Chakaki, the national co-ordinator for the UAE chapter, cited Khalil's story as one of many accomplishments that can be credited to the fund and its volunteers.
Together with Steve Sosebee, the fund's founder, Ms Chakaki called on members of the audience at the PCRF 2011 volunteer kick-off in Al Quoz at the weekend to lend a helping hand to the organisation's cause, which is to provide children diagnosed with serious illnesses with treatment that they cannot receive in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Mr Sosebee said that buying the tickets and getting the children to the hospital is the easy part.
"Taking care of the children and making sure they are receiving their follow-up treatments is all a very difficult process that requires the hard work and support of our volunteers," he said. "Our success depends on them."
Volunteers also include internationally qualified doctors, who provide their services at no charge.
"Our focus in 2011 is to send more teams than we did last year," Mr Sosebee said. Last year, the fund ran 60 missions and treated more than 2,000 children.
The UAE has been the fund's most active chapter, with 51 children treated for serious illnesses in the last four years, including orthopaedic surgeries and eye implants, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In 2010 alone, 10 children were treated.
Overall, the relief fund has provided medical services valued at $100m.
Plans for this year, Mr Sosebee said, include a 13-bedroom paediatric oncology centre, which will be part of Al Hussein Hospital in the West Bank.
But alongside the work of treatment and construction, people are needed to support patients and their families.
"We can complain about the occupation, we can demand change and resist in a peaceful manner, which we should, but we have to do what we can now to have an impact on people's lives," Mr Sosebee said."It's not enough to talk, we have to act."